The Offense of Jesus – Mark 6:1-13
If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the book of Mark. We are continuing in our sermon series on the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Mark, and this morning, we are going to be in Mark 6:1-13.
I’m just going to begin by reading our passage for us. Mark 6, beginning in verse 1: “He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.’ 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
“7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, ‘Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”
One of the privileges I had was being able to do my pastoral internship under my father, who is also a pastor, at the church where I grew up. Our family moved to Garrington, which is just southwest of Red Deer, when I was 4 years old, so Garrington Community Church was the only church that I had ever known.
And when you grow up in the same church all your life, people tend to know you quite well. And I say that it was a privilege to be able to intern at the church where I grew up, and it certainly was, but it was also an eye-opening experience both for the church and for me. There were certain hurdles that we all needed to overcome—the biggest one being familiarity.
I had been away from that church for 3 years before we did our internship there, but there was still this issue of familiarity. Here was the kid that they knew and saw grow up, standing behind the pulpit, preaching. And it’s hard to speak authoritatively from the Word of God when there are some people there who are having a hard time taking you seriously.
And in our passage for this morning, Jesus is back in His hometown. He is back where He spent the majority of His growing up years. He is back where He used to do all kinds of carpentry work for people.
My parents are both from the Saskatoon area. And after they got married, my dad got into framing houses in Saskatoon. He eventually owned his own construction company, which he had for a number of years, before selling it to go into pastoral ministry.
But growing up, every Summer, we would take a week of holidays and travel to Saskatoon to visit family. And every year, as soon as we were in Saskatoon, my dad would be pointing out all of the houses that he helped build. And we would get to Warman and my parents would point out where they grew up, and where their first house was, and other notable landmarks.
And I don’t know if Jesus did that. I don’t know if He took His disciples around to see all of the houses that He helped build or any other notable landmarks, but we do know where Jesus does go, and that’s to the synagogue.
And we don’t know exactly what Jesus was teaching on. There is a good indication that this instance in Mark is the same instance that Luke records in his Gospel, in Luke 4, in which case, the text that Jesus taught on would have been Isaiah 61.
But what we’re going to see, for our time together, this morning, is that the people of Jesus’ hometown have a hard time taking Jesus seriously. They know Jesus and saw Him grow up, but there is this issue of familiarity that they can’t seem to overcome. And so, what we’re going to see is the people’s reaction to Jesus and Jesus’ response to the people’s reaction.
1. First, the people’s reaction to Jesus. Look at verse 2. “And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?’”
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, we have seen people constantly astonished with Jesus. Back in Mark 1:22, it says that the people of Capernaum “were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.”
Jesus clearly doesn’t teach the blatant moralism of His day, where you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and attempt to earn God’s favour by adhering to all of these rules and regulations. And the people are astonished with Jesus, because He had the words that lead to eternal life.
Adhering to moralism is only going to lead to death, because you are trying to live the perfect life that you can’t live, but how much more lifegiving is it to know that God came to this world and lived that perfect life for you, so that if you repent of your sins and believe in Jesus as the perfect Son of God, you will be saved?
The work is done. Your freedom from the penalty of your sin has been purchased. All your striving to earn what you could never earn can cease. That’s the good news of Jesus Christ for all people.
And the people of Jesus’ hometown are in this privileged position, where they have had the perfect Son of God in their midst for thirty years, before Jesus begins His public ministry, and yet, what's their reaction when He returns? They’re astonished at Him, and not in a good way, but in a skeptical way. They can’t believe that this Jesus, whom they saw grow up, could say and do what they have heard Jesus saying and doing from the good folks of Capernaum.
Look at verse 3. The people continue, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”
And it says that “they took offense at him.” The word for “offense” here comes from Greek word, skandalon, which means a “stumbling block.” And what this means is that the people of Jesus’ hometown didn’t accept Jesus’ message concerning Himself, because they didn’t accept Jesus as the Son of God. Their problem isn’t with Jesus’ teaching; their problem is with Jesus Himself.
They know Jesus’ parents. They know His brothers and sisters. They even know the kind of work He did as a carpenter. But they also know that He never had any kind of formal teaching, so how could this Jesus say what He’s saying about Himself? Their stumbling block is with Jesus Himself.
And it’s why Jesus says, in verse 4, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” They had let familiarity with Jesus cloud their judgment about Jesus.
And this is the problem for many people. They know the stories about Jesus, and they know all of these cool sayings and facts about Jesus, but when it comes to following Jesus as Lord and King, they take offense, because they already know about Jesus, why would they need to submit to Him?
They’re fine with what Jesus says about doing to others what you would have them do unto you, but when Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” then you see people take offense at Jesus.
Sooner or later, each one of us is going to be offended by Jesus, because the gospel is naturally offensive to us. We don’t like to be told that we are sinners in need of a Saviour; we want to be told that we are perfect just the way we are, and that we don’t need to change, and that the problem with the world is that they can’t just accept us for who we are.
But this flies in the face of the gospel of Jesus Christ that says we are naturally dead in our trespasses and sins, and that following Jesus actually means denying myself, and that the problem with the world lies first and foremost in me.
We are naturally going to be offended by Jesus, because everything about Jesus is offensive to our sinful human nature, but the question is: What will our reaction be to the offense of Jesus?
Turn over to John 6. This is a passage of Scripture where the imagery has always disgusted me. Jesus has just fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and 2 fish, and in verse 51, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
And the people begin to wonder, “Is Jesus actually telling us that if we eat Him we will live forever?” And Jesus says to them, in verse 53, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
Our first reaction is that that’s disgusting. It’s actually this statement from Jesus that made many people in the first century believe that Christians were cannibals, because they ate the flesh and drank the blood of their leader. Of course, we know that Jesus is speaking figuratively here, as He would later demonstrate with the Lord’s Supper what He was conveying here.
But why would Jesus say this? It sounds so offensive. You just know that that kind of language is going to turn a lot of people off, and it does. Many followers of Jesus, it says, “turned back and no longer walked with him.”
They were fine when Jesus was talking about loving your neighbour, but when Jesus started talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, they’re out. They immediately take offense at Jesus, so much so, that Jesus asks His twelve disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” But what's their response? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
There will be those who know a lot of about Jesus, but who will abandon Jesus when He offends them, and what Jesus is after are those who are going to follow Him and love Him and obey Him, even if it means being offended by Him, at first.
2. And so, we see, in the first place, the people’s reaction to Jesus. They took offense at Him and thus did not believe His message. But then, we see Jesus’ response to the people’s reaction. Look at verse 5. It says, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.”
Earlier, it was the crowd who had been amazed at Jesus, but here, it’s Jesus who is amazed at His hometown crowd. And Jesus isn’t amazed in a good way; Jesus is amazed at their unbelief.
And it’s here where we are confronted once again with the mystery of the kingdom of God. Those who have every opportunity to believe in Jesus, because they grew up with Him, don’t believe in Jesus, but people whom we would never expect to believe in Jesus, like the demoniac from across the sea in the land of the Gentiles, or Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, believe in Jesus. They get it.
It’s why verse 6 says that Jesus “went about among the villages teaching.” When His hometown doesn’t believe in Him, Jesus goes elsewhere, and other people besides His hometown get the kingdom of God.
There's an important lesson to be learned here: If you reject Jesus, He will depart from you to another. If you reject the good news of Jesus Christ, He will go elsewhere. Do we understand the seriousness of what we’re reading? Do we understand the implications of Jesus going elsewhere with the good news?
It doesn’t matter if Jesus were to do a bunch of miracles in His hometown, they might be impressed for a moment, but their hearts are so hardened with unbelief, that Jesus must remove Himself from their midst.
We see this terrifying illustration in the church of Ephesus, in Revelation 2. The church of Ephesus could boast of great spiritual leaders in its history. It had the apostle Paul with them for 3 years. Timothy was a kind of pastor there. The apostle John, who wrote the Gospel according to John, was an elder there.
And yet, even after all of that godly leadership, we read these words from Jesus, in Revelation 2:4, saying, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
The church in Ephesus had become hardened by their sin, and they were being commanded to repent, lest Jesus remove Himself from their midst. It’s a dangerous thing when Jesus removes the opportunity for us to respond to Him. It means that our stumbling block is with Jesus Himself, and He is going to go where He will be received, because we clearly don’t want Jesus.
And so, Jesus calls the Twelve together, and He begins to send them out two by two, giving them authority over the unclean spirits and instructions on what to pack for their journey, and what’s their message? What are they proclaiming, in verse 12? They’re proclaiming repentance. They’re proclaiming that people turn away from their sin and embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
This is the same message that John the Baptist proclaimed in Mark 1:4 and it’s the same message that Jesus has been proclaiming. The message doesn’t change. It hasn’t changed for 2,000 years. The message is still the same: Repent of your sin and believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. That’s the gospel message.
Now, look, Jesus gives them instructions on what to do when people won't listen to them and don’t receive their message. Jesus says to them, “When you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
Do you think they were expecting their message to be rejected? I mean, when you come across people who have adhered to moralism all of their lives, you are bound to encounter some tension. When you tell people, who have lived their entire lives trying to earn God’s favour and think that they are doing an alright job, that they are in fact sinners who need to repent of their sin and believe in Jesus to be saved, there is bound to be some friction.
There’s no fluff when it comes to preaching repentance. It’s not like the disciples could preach “feel good” messages, where you leave feeling affirmed to continue living your life how you want to live your life. No, the message of repentance is invasive and it requires a change of mind. If we respond to the gospel message by surrendering our lives to King Jesus, we will not be the same as we were before. Our lives are going to be different.
This is the message that is being proclaimed, and you have to think you are going to see some resistance to it. But Jesus gives His disciples His divine authority over the unclean spirits, and verse 13 says that “they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”
If you look down at verse 30, they’re coming back from their mission trip excited for all they had done and taught. They can’t believe what they are seeing happen when the kingdom of God breaks in through the kingdom of darkness. You go even further down and you see that there are five thousand men following Jesus, now, and that’s not even including women and children. They’re not seeing resistance to the gospel message; they’re seeing a hunger and a thirst for it.
And do you know why? Because Jesus came to them with the good news. The response of Jesus to the people’s reaction who don’t want Him is that Jesus is going to go elsewhere, He is going to give other people the opportunity to respond to being confronted by the weight of their sin compared to the beauty and majesty of a holy God, and they’re going to respond.
If you think that you don’t need Jesus in your life, then He will go to another who does, and they will receive the good news that is more lifegiving than anything the world is telling you to believe.
But what this serves to remind us is that Jesus is going to be offensive. He is going to invade our lives and start rearranging our priorities. And it’s going to be uncomfortable. It might even be a little painful. But there is a joy and a relief that comes from confessing your sin and believing in Jesus.
Have you done this? Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord? Do you believe that Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death provide the sufficient payment for your sin, or is Jesus too offensive for you to believe in?
We sang a song earlier in the service, called, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. And I just want to read the lyrics for us, as we close our time together, because I believe these words fly in the face of our culture. But they are truly words that we need to hear, as they reflect the reality of what took place on the cross where Jesus died. The song says,
“How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
“Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.
“I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.”
What are some ways that Jesus is still offensive to you? Is there anything about Jesus that you can’t seem to get over? Are there any stumbling blocks that keep you from believing that He is the Son of God?
I just want you to know that Jesus is bigger than your questions. If you are wrestling this morning with the Person of Jesus Christ, this is a good thing. It means you have not hardened your heart towards Him.
In fact, I would argue that we should have questions. If there is no tension between us and Jesus, then it might be an indication that we are too familiar with Him. If He doesn’t amaze us anymore, then we have potentially lost our awe of Him. If He doesn’t offend us, then our Christianity might be too comfortable.
And if you want to talk about some of these things with me after the service, I would be more than willing to do so. I certainly don’t have all the answers. I’m sure there are individuals here who would be better equipped than me to tackle some of the difficult questions you might have, but I certainly know where to turn when I do have questions.
We have a Saviour and King who is so great and so glorious that He is able to handle whatever offense you might have against Him. Will we come to Him, today? Let’s pray…